The Campbell Soup Co., Camden, New Jersey, generated headlines in late October when the company announced plans to invest $32 million in the personalized nutrition meal delivery start-up Habit, San Francisco. Launching in early 2017, Habit will develop nutrition recommendations and deliver personalized meals based on an individual’s biology, metabolism and personal goals, while offering one-on-one wellness and nutrition coaching. The start-up’s staff includes nutrition scientists, health advisers, researchers, technologists, registered dietitians, chefs, food scientists and business leaders.
Users provide such body metrics as height, weight and waist circumference, and complete an at-home test kit that measures more than 60 different biomarkers. The company uses a proprietary approach to synthesize the data and determine the best foods and nutrients based on the individual’s needs. A group of chefs prepares the custom meals, which are delivered to the consumer’s home.
|Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup|
“The entire food industry is being transformed by the fusion of food, well-being and technology,” said Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup. “Habit is well positioned in this wired for well-being space and poised to lead the personalized nutrition category. Campbell’s investment is part of our broader efforts to define the future of food, which requires fresh thinking, new models of innovation, smart external development and venture investing to create an ecosystem of innovative partners.”
Nestle takes a leadership position
Campbell Soup is not the only consumer packaged goods company to express an interest in the possibilities of personalized nutrition. Nestle SA, Vevey, Switzerland, has made the emerging category a focus. This past July the company announced a partnership with the digital electronics firm Samsung to collaborate on research to explore the potential of nutrition science and digital sensor technologies to provide insights into healthy living. The focus of the partnership is to develop a digital health platform that may provide individuals with more personalized recommendations around nutrition, lifestyle and fitness.
The long-term goal of the collaboration is to combine the “internet of things” technology and the growing ability of devices to connect with each other, with nutrition science to provide people with greater ownership of their quality of life, according to the companies. The first projects related to the initiative are scheduled to begin in early 2017, according to the company.
Second, Nestle’s management expressed a belief that nutrition will become personalized through greater understanding of genetic and environmental interactions with food. Through the NIHS, the company is involved in a variety of research efforts to further define how genetic and lifestyle factors may affect a person’s health.
One such effort currently under way is investigating cellular mitochondria, how it converts food into energy and how it affects an individual’s metabolism. The research, published Dec. 1 in the publication Cell Metabolism, notes that people who exercise frequently have more mitochondria in their cells than individuals who exercise less frequently. The research also showed that exercise not only increases the number of mitochondria; it also causes mitochondrial proteins linked to energy production to cluster together, allowing them to produce energy more effectively.
|Kei Sakamoto, the head of diabetes and circadian rhythms at the NIHS|
“…this study brings us one step closer to explaining the molecular mechanism by which exercise brings about health benefits, and to the future development of nutritional solutions that could echo the effects of exercise on the body’s metabolism,” said Kei Sakamoto, the head of diabetes and circadian rhythms at the NIHS. “This research may one day lead to an improved understanding of how nutritional approaches may be applied for protection against metabolic disorders and cardiovascular complications. As a result, we could help people improve energy balance by triggering some of the same cellular mechanisms normally activated by exercise.”
A key trend in 2017
Such market research companies as New Nutrition Business, London, and Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands, have identified the concept of personalized nutrition as a growth opportunity for food and beverage companies as consumers increasingly turn to individually-tailored diets.
|Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business|
“Personalization is about consumers taking back control,” said Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business. “They want to feel more empowered and confident to create their own healthy eating patterns. It goes hand-in-hand with growing awareness that diet is a personal matter — and it’s another stage in the long slow death of ‘one-size-fits-all’ dietary recommendations.”
Mellentin said many consumers are embracing such personalized services offered via wearable technology and proving receptive to guidelines based on weight, height, sleep pattern, heart rate and activity. A smaller but growing number of consumers are looking for more in-depth services, such as a genetic profile, or metabolism and disease risk via DNA tests.
“The industry can tap into the personalization trend in three ways,” Mellentin said. “First, smart companies will create a portfolio of brands, made to meet the needs of different consumer diets and preferences. Second, they will invest in a multi-platform approach, offering support and tailored dietary advice. This means partnering with entities providing advice on diet planning or with fitness gadgets. Finally, they should invest in e-commerce, as it has proven to be a main route to niche consumers.”
Mellentin also sees personalized nutrition services, including tests for biomarkers for such conditions as chronic inflammation, being another emerging trend for 2017.
“Just like gluten-free back in 2001, many people say inflammation faces several challenges: consumers don’t understand it, it doesn’t have strong scientific support, and you cannot immediately feel the benefit of anti-inflammatory foods,” he said. “In fact, all of these objections are rapidly being overcome.”
And like gluten-free before it, one of the most important drivers of growing interest in inflammation is consumer belief, he said. Like gluten-free, inflammation taps into deeper levels of consumer concern than is immediately apparent. It is fueled by multiple benefit platforms and early signs of its potential are connected to the intense growth in consumer interest reflected already in sales of supplements featuring turmeric, a spice believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.
In a Nov. 23 webinar, Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights, also tapped personalized nutrition as a key trend for 2017.
|Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation of Innova Market Insights|
“I think we all talk to people who say carbs don’t agree with me or fats don’t agree with me, but if I eat a lot of protein my body responds really well,” she said during the webinar presentation. “Or (they say) I get bloated when I eat this. There is lots of discussion about how food makes people feel and this is really the beginning of the acknowledgement of personalized nutrition.”
Similar to Mellentin, she said control is a key component of the trend.
“Even today, maybe someone may sign up for a meal plan and if they write down what their goals were, what they liked and how their body liked certain foods and they have it delivered to their house,” she said. “ … Gluten-free, lactose-free, some of these things, especially gluten-free, free-from foods, are definitely mainstream and that has everything to do with people feeling there is a certain type of food, a certain type of diet that makes them feel good. And that is what personalized nutrition is about.”